Venom review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
A solo comic book villain movie can be a dangerous thing. How do we connect with a character who we’re supposed to root for the hero to best? Simple; you make the villain the anti-hero. Or, in the case of Venom, you make him a clown of a buddy picture concept. Look, without Spider-Man, Venom has got to have someone to joke around with. Thus begins a strange and messy tale that could play as a sillier version of The Mask for all the wrong reasons.
But first, let us give thanks to Tom Hardy and his wonderfully over-the-top performance that tap dances on the line between brilliantly psychotic and cringe-worthy cuckoo. He plays Eddie Brock, an internet video reporter that is so stupid he steals his girlfriend’s lawyer documents to bust open corruption on the San Fransisco’s local super-science firm, the Life Foundation. Stupidly revealing everything he knows to Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) and getting his girlfriend Anne Weying (Michelle Williams) fired, he loses his job and retreats to the bottle, telling pestering patrons of the man he used to be.
Tom Hardy proceeds through this role on an expectedly predictable and tired track, but then something miraculous happens. When he finally turns into the Eddie possessed by an alien parasite, transforming him into the villain Venom, Hardy awakens from a coma that most average movie tough guys doze off into with such a boring comic book story. He goes full-on nuts, babbling like a fool, eating food out of the trash, and openly bathing in a tank of lobsters. Not all of it works and sometimes the laughter comes more unintentional, but it’s no doubt going to be one memorable performance.
And you can’t blame Hardy for taking the role to such ludicrous extremes. He has nobody to play off of here. Anne is a bore, Drake doesn’t have the cackle or arc to be a villain with anything more than a God complex, and the henchmen assigned by Drake to assault Venom must’ve been picked up at the dollar goon store. Even when Drake turns into the evil Riot alien, there’s no development in his character that Riot merely forms to give Venom someone to fight. Why not give Venom a real opponent, one that can trade his witty jabs as well as his blobby jabs?
True, Venom looks good in this film. He has the eyes, teeth, and tongue. Great, now what? He used for action scenes that are creative by design but chaotic in assembly. What’s the point in putting all this work into a character who is mostly going to be blurry with jerky camera movements and obscured in scenes of smoke and quick editing? The best action scene is by far a motorcycle chase where Eddie escapes pursuing hitman vehicles and suicidal drones from the Life Foundation but it’s a confounding scene as well. Namely, why are there suicidal drones blowing up city streets and the city seems devoid of pursuing law enforcement? Did all the cops get wiped out in Avengers: Infinity War? Hard to say, considering this film doesn’t appear to exist in the MCU.
Venom is a big ol’ blobby mess that never finds a firm tone as it forgets about arcs, breezes through any meaningful scene, becomes needlessly dark at times, and turns the Eddie/Venom character into a flopping clown of an anti-hero. I’ve heard tell from others before I went into this that the film was going to be terrible because of cut footage meant to trim down from an R rating to a more economically viable PG-13. But it’s going to take a lot more than some curse words and Venom spilling blood and guts to repair this monstrosity of a tone-deaf comic book movie.